Published: 20th January 2020
Now, you can get upcycled stationery in exchange for the waste you collect. Let this Gurugram teen tell you how
Thirteen-year-old Vikramjeet Singh Kanwal wants his fellow youngsters to make small changes in their lives for the betterment of the environment. He speaks us about his plans for the future
Climate change is real. This is getting more evident as Australia is bracing for things to get worse. The bushfires are rapidly spreading across the entire continent, becoming one of the most devastating bushfires on record. If you are wondering what climate change has to do with this — it's making the fires worse. Australia suffered its recorded hottest day on December 18, 2019, at a scorching 40.9 degrees Celsius and the extreme heat heightened the wildfires in the continent. And it doesn't stop there — cities across the world have recorded some of their highest temperatures in the past year. On June 10, 2019, the temperature in Delhi reached 48 degree Celcius in the month of June, a record high for India's capital city.
Vikramjeet Singh Kanwar
To add to this menace, a staggering amount of dry waste, including plastics and paper, is burnt in several cities. Burning waste is usually an environmentally poor waste management option because potential resources are lost and it also causes an alarming increase in air, land and water pollution. Wanting to do something about all of this, Vikramjeet Singh Kanwar (13) — known fondly as Max by his friends and family — founded Max Xchange, a start-up that currently allows the residents of his complex, the neighbouhood and some corporate offices to exchange their collected dry waste for eco-friendly products that are made by recycling and upcycling the same dry waste.
Thirteen is quite a young age to be starting a company, we think. Explaining why he wanted to start Max Xchange, Vikramjeet says, “I can think of two reasons. My school taught us to be global citizens. In our curriculum, it is compulsory that we do something for the environment, otherwise we will not be allowed to progress to the next grade. The other major reason was that I began meditating when I was just 5-6 years old. Your perspective on things changes completely. For most people, a chair is just an object, but for me, living and non-living) things are all equal.” The first time this 13-year-old eco-warrior learnt about pollution in depth was when they were taught about its causes and effects in Class V. Soon after, he began researching more about the environment. "That's when I realised that poorly managed waste is a major cause of pollution in India," he says.
Following this, the first thing Vikramjeet started doing was collect newspapers from his residential complex in Gurugram. This was back in 2015. "I began collecting newspapers in and around my complex and also from my mother's friends' corporate offices. Then, I sold them and spent the money on stationery for the underprivileged children in my area," he explains. However, a rather strange incident prompted him to think about the option of waste exchange. "One day, while collecting newspapers, a lady in my complex refused to donate her recyclables, although I could see that she had kilograms of newspaper stashed away. She had been waiting to sell it herself to earn some money. That's when it hit me. Not everybody is ready to freely give away their recyclables. I had to incentivise the process so that more people would come forward and contribute," explains the teen ecopreneur. Donaters can exchage their waste for products — called Max Rebuilds — which include paper pencil and pens, notebooks, bookmarks and even incense cones.
Seesaw made out of recycled tyre
Vikramjeet has also come up with a unique exchange system for which he has invented a new currency that is used by his start-up. Telling us about it, he says, "The products are exchanged for X points — the currency of Max Xchange. We do not want to simply sell the products because we believe that people should make the effort to collect waste and exchange it for the products they want. So, if 1 kg of newspapers are set at a rate of 10 X points, a 10 kg load will give you 100 X points. With these points, you can redeem our eco-friendly notebook, for example, which is worth 100 X points." Max Xchange has been running successfully for two years now and Vikramjeet plans to expand his initiative to parts of Delhi NCR by mid-2020. They have tied up with corporate offices, firms and residential societies in Gurugram, Faridabad and certain parts of Delhi to collect the dry waste. They have already set up a warehouse in Faridabad and Vikramjeet now has plans to purchase a few more collection vehicles as well. His start-up is currently self-funded and is under the aegis of Be Positive, his mother's non-profit.